A Beginner's Guide To Face Contouring

If you thought face contouring was on its way out the door — think again. While it's true that the clean "that girl" beauty aesthetic is currently on the rise, that doesn't mean this old favorite is falling out of trend. In fact, experts are seeing that more women are embracing this new era of face contouring because it rejects the more glossy, Instagram filter aesthetic that dominated the 2010s in favor of a more minimal beauty look. "I've definitely seen contour shift to a softer look, now that all things '90s have made a big comeback," Kim Kardashian's longtime makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic recently shared with The New York Times. "The contour aesthetic from that era is no exception, except we're seeing it more scaled back for every day."


So, what's causing this draw toward a less-is-more beauty aesthetic? Beauty expert Charlotte Knight explains to Grazia that the combined power of social media and celebrity influence has pushed the 'clean girl' trend to the forefront. "Celebrity culture is still very much alive and seeing celebs such as Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, and Kendall Jenner lean into a fresh, dewy look has also inspired others to take on the trend," Knight said.

If you're new to the world of contouring, or just want to pick up some tips and tricks on achieving a softer glow, you're in the right place. Keep scrolling for your step-by-step guide to learning how to contour like the pros.

What is contouring exactly?

Beauty buzzwords aside, what exactly is contouring? Well, for those unfamiliar, contouring is a makeup technique used to sculpt and add dimension to your face by using makeup to highlight your best features (via MasterClass). The best contouring technique will bring your natural beauty to the surface. "This is a great technique to softly 'correct' any features or slim areas of the face," celebrity makeup Melissa Hurkman tells Ipsy. "You can even contour to enhance any areas to make them appear larger."


And because everyone has different facial features, the technique you'll use to contour your face will be different from everyone else. Luckily, there are plenty of online tutorials that show the best spots to highlight and contour, depending on your bone structure and whether your face is round, oval, or square-shaped, according to HelloGiggles.

Mastering this beauty technique may seem intimidating, but it's not as complicated as it seems once you know the right products to use and the steps to take.

What you'll need to contour

As with any good makeup application, the first step to contouring is to prep your skin with plenty of moisturizer, sunscreen, and whatever primers and serums you use in your skincare routine. 

To pull off the look you'll need a foundation that is your exact match, as well as some concealer a few shades lighter than your skintone and a contour that's a few shades darker. "It doesn't take a ton of product to make the face look svelte and sculpted," Los Angeles-based makeup artist Kelsey Deenihan explains to Byrdie, noting that the biggest rookie mistakes when it comes to achieving a natural contour are applying it too heavily and choosing the wrong — often too dark — shade.


Because contouring is all about creating the effect of shadow and light, popular areas to darken include along the hairline and jawline, under cheekbones, and on the sides of the nose (via Cosmetify). Areas to highlight include the center of your forehead, your chin, the bridge of your nose, and under your eyes.

How to achieve the perfect contour

Ready to sculpt your face to the heavens? Start by mapping out your angles and selecting the area you want to shade and highlight (via TikTok). Next, grab a slightly damp beauty sponge or your favorite contouring brush and begin blending the product into the skin. If you're using a cream, liquid, or stick contour, apply your contour right on top of your foundation before blending it out. If you're using a powder foundation, you'll want to sweep a layer of your favorite setting powder over your foundation before applying your powder contour on top to prevent patchy spots.


When blending, be sure to follow the natural curves of your face to help achieve a natural lift. "As you move to the center of the forehead, soften up your brush strokes for a flawless finish," makeup artist Ash K. Holm tells Elle

Add some sparkle by applying some highlighter to the areas of your face that you want to accentuate more, like the bridge of your nose, your cupid's bow, and the corner of your eyes. Finish by gently sweeping off any excess product left on your skin with a fluffy makeup brush before setting it with finishing spray to keep your contour lasting all night long.